It’s Time to Test & Protect Your Dog
It’s been late in arriving but it is spring. Spring means the parasites that seek out your dog are waking up and they’re hungry. Now is the time to test and protect your dog from the dangers of ticks and the diseases they carry.
Here in Toronto, the populations of various species of ticks have been on the rise. The most worrisome is the Black-Legged tick because it spreads Lyme Disease.
The Ontario and Canadian governments have been tracking the spread of the ticks and Lyme Disease. The map below, produced by Public Health Ontario, shows the areas where the risk of encountering Black-Legged ticks is the highest. As you can see, Toronto and other areas in southern Ontario are hotspots.You can download this map, and learn more about Lyme Disease in Ontario at Public Health Ontario
Ticks are spreading out along the Great Lakes and up the St Lawrence River and into the Maritimes. There are two reasons for this pattern. First, ticks hitch a ride on migratory birds and the birds follow the major waterways. Second, we have a large deer population in this part of Canada. The other name for the Black-Legged Tick is the Deer Tick. Where there are deer, there are deer ticks and where there are deer ticks there is a rising incidence of Lyme disease. Don’t assume that because you don’t have deer on your property, you don’t have to worry about ticks. Ticks can attach to almost any warm-blooded animal and get a ride into your backyard or neighborhood park.For a truly creep-crawly look at a tick questing and biting, watch this video by KQED Science.
Ticks, Disease, and Your Dog
The three most dangerous diseases that ticks carry are Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia.
Lyme disease can cause severe lameness, moving between your dog’s joints. It can also cause severe, possibly deadly kidney disease. Once a dog or person gets Lyme disease they have it for life. One of the reasons we need to test your dog for Lyme using the 4DX test is that repeat infections can make the disease signs much, much worse. If we know your dog has already been infected we can take measures to prevent any re-infection. Infected dogs cannot directly pass Lyme to a person or other dog. The bacteria must pass through a tick to be transmitted to another host.
The number of Lyme infections detected in dogs in Canada has risen from 92 cases in 2012 to 2319 in 2017.
Ehrlichia & Anaplasmosis
Lyme isn’t the only disease ticks are carrying. Anaplasmosis and Ehrlichia are also on the rise. Ehrlichia can prevent your dog’s blood from clotting. Anaplasmosis organisms invade red blood cells and cause severe anemia.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Dog?
- Have a 4DX blood test done. More on that below.
- Start your dog on a tick preventative medication as soon as the temperature is over 3C, which means starting now. Keep them on this preventive until the temperature no longer goes above 3C, which usually means late November or December.
- We can discuss Lyme vaccination for dogs in our care that are going to the most high-risk area such as the Rouge valley or Long Point.
- Even with these precautions check your dog all over every day. If you find a tick remove it with a Tick Twister as soon as you can. The longer the tick is attached, the more likely it is to infect your pet. Ticks have evolved some clever adaptations to become such successful parasites. They have local anesthetic in their saliva so we don’t feel them bite. They also have an adhesive that cements them in after they do bite. We recommend using a Tick Twister to remove the tick as this little tool will help you get the head parts out. It is possible to use tweezers and pull straight out, but you need to get under the head and make sure you get the whole tick, which can be difficult with fur. Done wrong, the tick will regurgitate as you pull on it and potentially deposit infection into your pet’s bloodstream.
But What About Heartworm?
Heartworm continues to be a risk for your dog. It is established in the resident coyote population, which gives it a local source. Also, there are rescue groups bringing dogs to Toronto from parts of the world where Heartworm is endemic. It just takes one mosquito biting an infected coyote or dog and then your dog to pass on the parasite. As always we recommend testing and prevention. The test we now recommend for Heartworm is the same one we use to test for tick-borne diseases: the 4DX Test.
The 4DX Test
The 4DX test tests your dog for Lyme Disease, Anaplasmosis, and Ehrlichia and Heartworm. We are recommending all dogs, even ones that had a 4DX test last year and were on preventives have a 4DX test done this year and every year.
When we draw the blood for 4DX test, it’s a great idea to also have some additional blood tests done to check your dog’s general health. Until July 31st, we are offering savings on wellness blood tests done at the same time as the 4DX test.
For younger dogs below the age of 7 add a Mini Wellness test and save $20. This gives us information on kidney and liver function as well as diabetes and blood protein levels and a complete blood count.
For dogs over 7, we recommend Wellness Complete with t4. This test gives us all the above information plus a look at thyroid and pancreatic function as well as electrolytes, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Until July 31st, you can save $30 on a combined 4DX plus Complete Wellness test.
We recommend preventives for ticks and fleas in the form of a topical called Advantix or an oral chew called Nexgard. Both are used once a month. Extreme care must be used with Advantix if your dog has a cat friend. Advantix is extremely toxic to cats. If you have a cat in the house, you must keep the dog and the cat separated for 24 hours after you administer Advantix to your dog.
For Heartworm and intestinal parasites, we recommend monthly Heartgard.
Please remember that we are not only worrying about ticks and your dog. People’s lives are ruined by Lyme disease. Check yourself and your family from head to toe whenever you’ve been grass or wooded areas.